Reincarnation and Christianity

By Beth Hyduke

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In contrast to the biblical teaching of Heaven or Hell, reincarnation is the belief that after physical death, the surviving soul begins a new cycle of life in a new body. Reincarnation usually has some connection to pantheism through the notion of karma, which is the belief that after the soul has fulfilled its destiny, learned its lessons, and become sufficiently enlightened, it will revert to its original status as a divine being, and simply be absorbed into the "Divine All." Reincarnation doctrine is a central tenet of most Indian religions as well as a common belief of more recent religions such as Spiritism, New Age, and Scientology. Obvious incompatibilities arise in comparing the undefined, amorphous, impersonal, pantheistic "Divinity" with the Personal, Almighty One-God-In-Three-Persons God of the Christian Bible. Apart from that insurmountable difference, the biblical teaching of divine retributive judgment is incompatible with reincarnation ideology, which teaches that there is no heaven or hell, and that people will not be judged for their actions, but instead are given as many opportunities as they need to "level up" through repeated cycles of physical life. In addition, belief in reincarnation requires that you believe there is no end to the earth and natural order since it is the platform to which you and all others return in your successive lives. However, this stands in direct opposition to Biblical teaching that Christ's Second Coming brings with it the destruction of this earth and the natural realm by fire (2 Peter 3:7, 10-13). Most compellingly, we must ask ourselves what is the central message of Christianity if reincarnation were true. If people simply cycle through lives until everyone eventually achieves enlightenment, what does the Cross mean? In such a construct, what would be the point of Jesus Christ dying to save us from our sins? The Bible explicitly tells us that "Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God..." (1 Peter 3:18). In contrast to the Christian tenet of substitutionary atonement by which a dual transfer takes place (our sins imputed to Christ, His righteousness imputed to us), reincarnation offers a works-based merit system by which, through the repetition of successive lifetimes, karma ensures that everyone "pays" for his or her own misdeeds and is eventually rewarded in the conceptually nebulous currency of enlightenment. Reincarnation therefore makes sin, judgment, salvation, heaven and hell, and the hope of reconciliation with a holy God obsolete. By extrapolation, if you believe in reincarnation, there is no reason to believe in the Cross, nor in a Savior authoritatively claiming to be able to pay for your sins on it.

If what Christ teaches is true, (in this case one final judgment after death followed by a resurrection of bodies either to eternal life or eternal death), then anything other than what Christ teaches must be untrue, regardless of whether it is highly educated scientists, likeable celebrities, or cute little children who are voicing the opposing doctrine. In the face of compelling personal accounts that conflict with what Christ has told us, it would be wise to remember that Satan takes many shapes and forms, even angelic ones (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), and holds strong influence over people who are lost and in bondage to him. While spokespersons promoting reincarnation may seem credible, educated, innocent, or sincere, we must remember that Satan wants to deceive people (John 8:44), and in doing so, steer them away from the Truth, away from Christ (John 14:6 & 17:17; 1 Peter 5:8-9), who is our only hope for salvation and freedom.

As clever and powerful an opponent as Satan is, however, he is an already-defeated enemy (John 12:31-32), and James 4:7-8 tells us the key to resisting him successfully. "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded..." As Christian believers we have access to much greater power than Satan has been given, but notice what the verse tells us. We must submit to God's ways (not our own or others' ways), we must draw near to God as He truly is (and not as we would rather have Him), we must cleanse our ways and thoughts so that we can, as John puts it, "worship God in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). God will not accept our allegiance if it is marred by lies and false doctrines about Him and what He has ordained; He requires that we know and worship Him as He truly is, as He has made Himself known to us in the Bible.

To assume that reincarnation is in any way, shape, or form taught in the Bible, that it is a benign doctrine, or even that it is harmless to accept it as a personal belief that is "somewhat" compatible with Biblical Christianity is a naive error and a complete untruth. In teaching about the afterlife, Christ never made any mention of reincarnation or even once suggested that people might take another shape and return to this life in another body, but instead only taught two ultimate and final destinations — Heaven or Hell. Trying to bend what the Bible teaches about the afterlife so that it may fit together with the pagan doctrine of reincarnation is unnecessary, unconstructive, untrue, and unwise (Revelation 22:18-19).

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Current-Issues  |  Eternity-Forever  |  False-Teaching  |  Other-Religions

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Published 6-24-14